MAY 11, 2004
An executive session and strategic conversation of the Maricopa County Community College District Governing Board were scheduled to be held at 5:30 p.m. at the District Support Services Center in Tempe, Arizona, pursuant to A.R.S. §38-431.02, notice having been duly given.
Linda Rosenthal, President
Don Campbell, Secretary
Ed Contreras, Member
Nancy Stein, Member
Scott Crowley, Member
Todd Simmons for Linda Thor
Jolyne Ghanatabadi for Gene Giovannini
Alberto Sanchez for Phil Randolph
The Governing Board met in executive session beginning at 5:30 p.m., notice having been previously given. The executive session recessed at 6:15 p.m. The strategic conversation convened at 6:35 p.m.
- President Linda Rosenthal welcomed everyone present to the evening's Strategic Conversation intended to focus on ethical dilemmas in higher education. She stated that participants would be polled initially on their reactions to five different moral dilemmas, and then asked to deliberate in small groups and reach a consensus as to an appropriate course of action. They would then be asked to examine their responses in light of various moral principles and theories of right conduct at the Maricopa Community College District. She then turned the meeting over to the three facilitators: Dr. Barry Vaughan, Debra Campbell, and Dr. David Yount, all from MCC's Philosophy and Religious Studies Department.
Dr. Vaughan recounted the title for the evening's conversation as being "Morality, Values, and Social Responsibility and Ethical Challenges in Higher Education." He stated that missing in this was a theoretical approach to problems. By exploring moral dilemmas and larger moral concepts, this would hopefully enable people to more clearly think about these issues. All human beings make mistakes and some we don't know what to do about. We need to approach these with some tools, tools that would be provided this evening. In order to do this, tonight a few concepts would be explored and afterwards emerging patterns could be studied.
In the study of ethics, some definitions need to be known and these are:
Values: That which is desirable or worthy of esteem. What makes something valuable? Having a value is worthless if it is not within a right framework.
Virtue: A desirable characteristic or disposition. What is forming the desirability? What does it refer to?
Ethics: The systematic/philosophical investigation of morality. It is the study of morality. What is the moral?
What morality is not: Other normative social systems. Not etiquette. Not a code of behavior. What you do is certain circumstances. The difference between etiquette and morality is how you get punished. Morality is not religion although they are associated with each other. It is not a professional manner of conduct. It is not the law. You can have laws that are immoral but you can immoral things that are not illegal.
What is morality? This is an open question. It is systematic normative code of behavior aimed at achieving the good life.
How to be moral?
- Define the good
- Articulate principles aimed at achieving the good
- Verify that the principles are even possible (the practicality of the moral principles)
Co-facilitator Debra Campbell engaged the participants in five dilemmas in which they were to render their initial response, discuss with table partners as to the reasons why they voted as they did, and then reach consensus at their tables. The five dilemmas were as follows:
1. Given the overcrowding and scarce resources, should we reconsider the open enrollment policy?
Yes: Because decreasing class size is a benefit for more people.
No: Because every person should have access to a community college education.
Polling: 18% yes 82% no
Deliberation: 1 yes 7 no
2. Should controversial groups who have been associated with "hate speech" in the past be given permits to speak at our colleges?
Yes: Because everyone benefits from freedom of speech.
No: Because hate speech in any form shows a lack of respect for individuals.
Polling: 53% yes 47% no
Deliberation: 6 yes 2 no
3. In order to increase insurance costs should MCCCD support a policy of performing background checks on all employees who drive college vehicles?
Yes: Because decreasing insurance costs is good for the district overall.
No: Because it infringes on the individual's right to privacy.
Polling: 79% yes 21% no
Deliberation: 9 yes 0 no
4. Assume you are in a leadership position. If you are presented with the opportunity to hire an additional person for your group if you just "play ball", even though this subverts the normal hiring process, should you play along?
Yes: Because you should always advance the interests of your group.
No: Because it violates the agreed upon procedures of the institution.
Polling: 100% no
Deliberation: 1 yes 8 no
5. Suppose a professor not knowing it is a violation of policy uses the $20 left over from an open requisition to buy much needed supplies for the department. Since she did not turn the money back as required, the policy manual says she must be fired. She is an excellent teacher and the institution and students will be worse off without her. Do you fire her?
No: Because the benefit to the institution as a whole outweighs the harm of the violation.
Yes: Because the policy requires that she be fired.
Polling: 84% no 16% yes
Deliberation: 8 yes 0 no
Insights From Deliberations:
- There were comments made pertaining to the dilemma of background checks and what "background checks" actually involved, whether driving records only or police records. Definition of terms should be made clearer.
- With reference to the dilemma on "hate speech", it must be determined what is offensive and what is hate. Is it a precursor to something that will bring harm?
- The polling responses pointed out themes as to how people felt about moral issues. The point was to focus on justification for the choices and this would articulate a moral view. There are two major moral theories (broadly speaking) that can provide guidance on behavior. These are:
Teleological: Actions that "good" insofar as they create desirable consequences. Focus on the ends and justify the means.
Utililitarian: Hold to this view in that it benefits the majority of the people.
Deontological: Actions are "good" if they are performed out of sense of duty.
- This exercise was used to demonstrate how the institution makes decisions. It needs to be determined what moral theories are and it is important to have a moral theory.
- Lots of unanimity. Many utilitarians in the group. These dilemmas provide an awareness of other options. It is necessary to take the option, step back, and take a look at other views.
The meeting concluded at 8:30 p.m.
Dr. Donald R. Campbell
Governing Board Secretary
Additional Strategic Conversation Summary Report follows:
Debra Campbell, ABD, Dr. Barry Vaughan, and Dr. Dave Yount led MCCCD administrators, college presidents, and other employees through some moral dilemmas, and discussed their answers and reactions to the dilemmas.
Dr. Vaughan started off with an explanation of what ethics and morality were not (e.g., etiquette, religion, or law), as well as what they were (an expression of desire for the Good). The participants were then asked to vote on a series of questions (e.g., given the overcrowding and scarce resources in our classrooms, should we reconsider the open enrollment policy?). Next, participants were asked to relate to the group how and why they voted the way in which they did. Finally, each group was asked to deliberate, arrive at a consensus and then report their decision to all the groups.
The interesting findings were:
(1) Participants did not consistently vote by using one ethical theory; they mostly leaned towards utilitarianism, which maximizes the happiness for all involved, but they also voted with Kant, which holds that duty makes an action right.
(2) There was a significant difference between how people voted individually (it was a virtual dead heat) versus the consensus vote by group (Utilitarianism won big) on Question 2: "Should controversial groups who have been associated with 'hate speech' in the past, be given permits to speak at our colleges?"
(3) There was 100% agreement on Question 4: "Assume you are in a leadership position. If you are presented with the opportunity to hire an additional person to your group if you just "play ball," even though this subverts the normal channels - should you play along?" Participants answered a resounding "No" to this question.
The conversation concluded with analysis by the participants and facilitators, and the most heavily discussed question was question 2, concerning hate speech. Some felt that by banning the hate speech, MCCCD would be showing that it valued its students and wouldn't allow bullying, whereas others felt that allowing the speech showed that MCCCD was very tolerant and that the speech itself would show the ignorance of the speakers.
Overall, the facilitators and the participants viewed the conversation a success!
- Create more opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to engage in conversations about ethical dilemmas. Two steps toward this goal are the PHI150 Ethics in Higher Education Course and an Ethics Workshop (under development).
- More Strategic Conversations on moral dilemmas in the future.